County Shares Liability Concerns over ‘Old Hospital’ Homekey Project for Homeless Youth


Lassen’s administrative officer is concerned about the state contract in the county’s joint agreement with developers ColWest Investments for the Homekey Homeless Housing project.

Homekey is a state-funded program designed to address California’s homelessness crisis. ColWest Investments has partnered with the county, utilizing a 3 million-dollar grant through the Homekey program to create a 15-unit complex at the Old Hospital site, located off of Hospital Lane in Susanville. The site has been highly contested due to its proximity to homes and Diamond View Middle School.

CAO Richard Egan brought the discussion back to the board of supervisors to address gaps in a standard agreement the state recently delivered after a nearly 8-month wait. The original application to the Homekey project was approved in July of 2023 and awarded just a few months later.

Egan stated that the standard agreement was expected to provide “basically a roadmap” for completing and implementing the project, yet Egan claimed, “It doesn’t do what we thought it would do. It essentially treats both co-applicants (the county and ColWest) as one, jointly liable to the state for the performance on this project with the outlined milestones included.”

With that, Egan said he would like to see the board approve drafting a performance bond so that the county would not be left “holding the bag” if the project failed to be completed within the timeframe mandated by the state.

Egan, however, added that the county and ColWest have jointly asked for an extension to the tight timeline of 15 months, given the delay in returning the standard agreement. He also cautioned the supervisors that due diligence is needed before moving forward in completing the agreement, stating, “This is more than a simple construction project; it is a 15-year commitment for providing housing.” Per the Homekey program, a grantee must provide services for up to 15 years.

ColWest Partner Melanie Westbrook shared that working with the state has been “great but difficult” and that the state “seemed” open to the idea of an extension, easing some concerns from the supervisors that the project would not be completed in time. She shared that work at the property has been progressing, affirming that it “looks much better than it has in years,” with a new gate installed, street lights turned back on, and green waste cleared around the site.

The discussion didn’t come and go without re-opening concerns from a neighboring homeowner who addressed the supervisors, stating she has “heard very little” on the project. She asked for better communication from the board in addressing concerns of safety, increased crime.

Egan and Housing and Grants representative Grace Poor address these concerns, highlighting that those who will be housed will be 18-to 24-year-olds experiencing homelessness. Five of the 15 units are designated to a general population at risk of homelessness, with income limitations and background checks required of applicants.

Jason Ingram, Supervisor of District 5, said there are well over 40 kids who are homeless within the county’s school system,noting they are likely to remain homeless after graduating, and a project like this is necessary.

Supervisor of District 4 Aaron Albaugh chimed in with a similar sentiment, noting “change is hard but can be good”, noting that with ColWest improving the dilapidated building, a blight has been removed from the neighborhood.

To resolve Egan’s concerns in the state’s standard agreement with the county and co-applicant ColWest, staff will draft a performance bond in an effort to protect the county from any liability should the project fail to be completed, to which ColWest is in full agreement.

The item is expected to return back to the board by it’s next meeting.